Living with gratitude
So I had a few days this week where I was feeling really out of sorts, you know those days, when you just feel a little bit down and a little bit vulnerable and a little bit insecure. It was odd because it seemed to come from nowhere and I just felt really exhausted and all I craved was quiet space away from all the noise and hectic nature of daily life.
I haven't felt like this for a while so it threw me somewhat and by day 3 when I was still out of sorts, I had to really remind myself not to wallow in it (as I have had a habit of doing in the past) and to remember that at some point it would pass, "this too shall pass", and that it is all part of the bigger picture and a healing no doubt.
See the thing is when you live in this healing world and you are practicing yoga and channelling Reiki or whatever else it may be trying to help others and working on yourself in the process, well like anything really, you can't just always go, go, go. There has to be some time and indeed space for integration, so that transformation and indeed healing can take place, so that the light can come in. There has to be some down times, and in more ways than one, time for sleeping, and a time for being alone and a time for nurturing one's soul and listening.
And actually this is what I came to recognise. That my soul was feeling constricted somehow, ready for a shift, for more light to come in, but my mind was holding on incredibly tight ("not too tight not too lose, find the middle way"), wanting things to move forward but trying to control the process and figure out how things may or may not turn out. On a rational level I know that this is such a waste of energy, and so silly, because it keeps you stuck and prevents you growing and stops the soul from expressing itself more fully, but there I was, mind consumed by thought, trying to create the next step but seeing only brick walls. And with that came the frustration and a sense of feeling a little sorry for myself. And the acute tiredness.
Usually I attend a yoga class on a Wednesday evening but I was feeling so tired that I debated a glass of wine instead...and then reminded myself that this wasn't going to help, so I got myself changed and ready for yoga instead. Now usually I can just keep going, it is not always a good trait and has seen me suffering with glandular fever and adrenal fatigue in the past, and this has always been a very challenging habit to break, so it wasn't an easy decision to make...I love yoga, I love yoga classes and here I was with a free night and an opportunity to attend the class. But for once, ah yes, amazing really, for once, I properly listened to my body and decided sleep was the only option to take.
But before I went to bed, I sat on the sofa and googled 'gratitude' as I have been meaning to write a little on this. And I came across this fabulous site, which made me realise exactly what I was doing mentally...an old habit, a negative tendency then, in trying to change things externally, without realising that I need to change me, by letting go and letting grace in, trusting then, and patience some more. A change in perception really. Stop trying to grasp and hold on so tightly, laughing and taking some much needed mental time out (no wonder the body gets so tired when we think too much!). So perhaps it was no coincidence that I came across Marianne's blog, "The Meaning of my Life" where she writes:
"It is easy to feel grateful when everything is going well in your life. What about when things are not going well? When there are burdens, struggles, drama, it’s hard to feel grateful. Do we wait until life gets better again or can we start where we are, in the midst of problems and challenges? I learned that when our outside circumstances are not changing, it’s time to go inside. Change begins with me.
What is gratitude? According to my old beat up Collins Paperback English Dictionary, the definition is, “a feeling of thankfulness”. I looked up “thankful” and it read “appreciation”. I looked up “appreciation” and it read “to value highly”.
That is exactly what I found out when I began to practice and develop the ability to feel grateful; I began “to value highly” my life and the lives of those around me. It pains me to admit it, but life’s challenges frustrated and depressed me. Most days were a struggle until I learned about the gifts of gratitude.
The gifts of gratitude are; increased self-esteem, happiness, enthusiasm, peace, and joy."
Marianne reminded me how powerful a gratitude practice can be. The five Reiki principles touch on gratitude and during a recent attunement session I asked the attendees what this meant to them, and I was strangely surprised to hear the differing levels of awareness so that for some gratitude meant being kind to others as away of expressing gratitude, while others were more inclined to acknowledge with gratitude the positive aspects to their lives, which is certainly more so how I have come to recognise it in my life, by practicing and developing the ability to feel grateful then.
Discovering the power of a gratitude practice was certainly life changing for me. I mean I have always known of the word, but I never really incorporated it into my world. For many years I didn't really feel there was much to be grateful for in my life as it just seemed dark and miserable and I was resentful of the way it was passing out...little did I realise that it was that exact thought process that was keeping me limited and trapped in a dark and miserable world, rather than the world itself. We choose our thoughts after all. We do have a choice.
It was after a Dru Yoga class that I attended in Australia many years ago now, that gratitude properly came into my life. I was feeling down at the time as there was some shifting going on in my personal and family life and I was miserable and a little lonely and a little lacking in clarity. My wise white witch cousin has been emailing me and asked me to let her know of 5 positive things to happen to me that day - that same day I attended the one and only Dru yoga class I have ever attended and I was given a piece of card which read, "Gratitude turns what I have into enough and more!" The Universe was clearly trying to shift my perspective!
I still have that piece of card, it sits on the bookshelf the yoga room and it has become like a mantra to me over the years. I started working with it that very day, I wrote down and shared with my cousin the 5 positive things I recognised that day and days thereafter. I was surprised to find that it really did start to open up my world again asI began to recognise and appreciate the smaller things that we (or I then) can often overlook in searching for the perceived bigger and better things (an illusion in fact). So that the sunset becomes brighter and more magnificent than it appeared previously, the stars more awe inspiring and the world becomes full of beauty and magic again.
And the other thing is that you start seeing beauty everywhere and make more of an effort to make the most of it, so you get up earlier to see the sunrise, or you make the effort to go and see the moon rise, and strangely or not so strangely stuff starts to make better sense in your life, there is more clarity, the perspective shifts. Plus often you will find that new opportunities present themselves now that you have allowed a more creative and powerful energy into your life, grace then, to elevate your soul and allow it to shine beyond the confines of the planning and judging ego. As Lynn Robinson writes:
"Sometimes a subtle shift in perception about a difficulty you are facing opens up a world of options that did not seem to exist previously. I remember a time when my business had been really slow for a few months. I was getting a bit panicky about it and prayed for some way to turn this around. I decided to go out for a walk to see if I could get out of the depressed mood I was in. As I walked I thought about all the things I was grateful for in my life. As my mood began to lift and I felt more hopeful, marketing ideas for my business started to pop into my head. Before the end of the walk I had a plan of action".
And it is interesting because on Wednesday night I went to bed and wrote in my journal as I always do but I also made a list of 5 things I was grateful for that day and went to sleep earlier than I have done for a long time. And the next morning I felt different, my mood had lifted, sleep is so very healing, but so is just giving in. And I got to my mat and set myself up for one of Cyndi Lee's practices and was amazed at the coincidence of hearing her talking, which went a little like this:
"The best way to be safe I think actually, is to listen to your body and to listen to what they call your second brain, your gut. A lot of the times when we get in a situation where we feel vulnerable or insecure or emotionally exposes we retreat into hope and fear and we aren't able to act properly and this is because we have this habit of just responding to that exact moment when we had that feeling of insecurity and we forget the bigger picture, we forget about impermanence, we forget about the story".
This fascinated me, not least the timing, but that this teaching is so true. In times like this, when we feel vulnerable and insecure, we really must listen to our bodies because there is a reason that we feel like this and if we allow the body to guide us, well who knows what will happen next - there is a bigger picture to everything, we just have to get out of our own way and out of the heads.
And of course that day, Thursday, was strangely full of coincidences, a day of flowing and a day of lightness. New opportunities came in and so did new ideas. And this happened, not because there is anything special about me, far from it, I am as ordinary as the next, but simply because of the gratitude practice, and the sleep, grace was dancing again, my soul was free.
So next time you feel insecure or vulnerable or a little out of sorts, take some quiet time out, find some space, breathe, connect to the earth, and start a gratitude diary so that you write down 5 positive things you have noticed that day and you give thanks. And you get some sleep. And you see what happens and acknowledge when things shift.
With gratitude for the teachings, the process, the journey and the challenges.